A gun charge is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. It will raise the stakes in any criminal case, and even a first-time offense can lead to significant jail time. There are a number of defenses the Bill Brennan team has successfully used in cases involving weapons and firearms, but it is important to understand your rights to help you avoid a criminal record and the serious consequences that follow a gun charge. Here are a few of the most common questions related to firearms and gun charges in PA.
Do I need a license to carry a firearm in PA?
Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, every citizen is guaranteed the right “to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State.” And while the state does not require people to register their firearms, anyone who wants to carry a firearm must have a valid Pennsylvania license to do so. The only exceptions are:
- The firearm does not leave your home
- The firearm does not leave your fixed place of business
How do I obtain a license to carry in PA?
In order to obtain a license, you will have to go through an application process with your county sheriff’s office, involving the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which is managed by the Pennsylvania State Police and provides gun suppliers with relevant background checks of those who wish to purchase to determine if you are eligible.
Are there certain people who cannot carry a gun?
There are some cases where you will not be permitted to carry a gun – open or concealed – in the state of PA. These situations include an individual who:
- Has a reputation to likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety
- Has been adjudicated delinquent during a ten year period prior to carrying
- Is a convicted felon; primarily violent felonies such as murder, rape, robbery, etc.
- Has been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes
- Has been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. armed forces
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Has been convicted of certain drug or controlled substance crimes, or are addicted to, or have been convicted of unlawfully using illegal drugs
- Has been judged as mentally incompetent or has ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- Has been convicted of a DUI/DWI on three or more separate occasions within a five year period of the time they are caught carrying
- Is not a U.S. citizen and is in the U.S. illegally
If you are also prohibited from carrying a weapon or firearm, it is a second-degree felony, which could result in up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
What are the consequences for carrying a firearm without a license?
It is a third-degree felony to carry a firearm without a valid license or specific permit – with the exceptions mentioned above. If you are caught, you could face up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If you have a clean record and would have been eligible for a license, it is still punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is the Concealment of a weapon, and what are the consequences?
Pennsylvania is considered a relatively pro-gun state with limited restrictions on ownership and possession; however, any individual carrying a firearm concealed or in their vehicle can be charged with a serious offense – whether you have a license or not.
Pennsylvania law defines concealment of a firearm or weapon as “any person who carries a firearm in any vehicle, or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person; except in his place of abode (residence) or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license, commits a felony of the third degree.” A third-degree felony can carry a prison sentence of up to 7 years and/or fines of up to $15,000.
What are other charges related to gun and firearm possession?
Any individual in possession of a weapon with an altered, removed, or obliterated manufacturer’s serial number is a serious federal offense and punishable of up to 10 years of jail time, in addition to large fines.
The theft or sale of a stolen gun is also a serious crime in PA and is punishable as a felony of the second degree.
If there is proven intent to use the firearm during criminal activity, it is a first-degree misdemeanor, in which you could face up to 5 years in prison and 10,000 fine. Even if the gun is not loaded or you never actually used the weapon, these penalties still apply.
Minors, or anyone under the age of 18, is prohibited from possessing a gun, but there are a few exceptions to this law in Pennsylvania.
How can I protect my rights in a gun charge conviction?
There are exceptions to who can conceal and carry a gun in Pennsylvania, and a number of defenses that could help preserve your rights. Our gun charge attorneys have handled many of these violations by reviewing the evidence against the defendant and challenging the prosecution under reasonable suspicion, probable cause, and more. Don’t risk a criminal record by choosing anyone but the best gun charge attorneys in Philadelphia to represent you. Contact us to discuss your case.Read More
As one of the most disruptive events someone can experience, domestic violence often causes overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and fear. As the term “domestic” implies, your home, your relationships, and those closest to you are all affected, and without taking the proper steps after an arrest, the consequences can drastically change your life forever. If you or someone you know has been arrested for domestic violence, here is what you need to know about what happens next.
Although not a separate violation from other crimes of violence under Pennsylvania law, domestic abuse does make these charges more complicated. The person who makes the call to the police is automatically in a stronger position, since the police do not need to witness an act of violence in order to make an arrest. They will simply need to see the injury or other evidence of the victim’s claim.
And once the charges are filed, the alleged victim can not make the decision to have them dropped. If you are arrested for domestic violence, you will not be released until you go before a judge, as they will determine whether or not you present a danger to the alleged victims or others.
It’s also extremely important to remember that everything you say during an arrest can be held against you in court, so it is crucial that during this emotional time, you invoke your right to remain silent until you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
What Happens Next?
In all domestic violence cases, you will be required to attend a First Appearance, or Advisory Hearing, shortly after your arrest. To avoid making mistakes or implicating yourself of harsher penalties, you will want an attorney present with you during this hearing so do not delay in calling our offices after our arrest.
Before the hearing the prosecutor will conduct an investigation of your criminal history and other charges in your past to present before the judge. Reversely, your defense attorneys will review how the arrest took place and the injury or evidence in which the arrest occurred to then argue that the police lacked probable cause and ask the court to release your or that the judge set a bond.
The next step is an arraignment in where you will be required to enter an informal ‘not guilty’ plea. In many cases, your attorney will be present to do this on your behalf. A pre-trial conference will then occur, discussing the details of the claims to establish pre-trial offers by the government to resolve the case.
Our experienced domestic violence attorneys are often able to resolve the case before going to trial, but in some cases, you will have the right to elect to be tried by a judge and jury. Based on the outcome of this trial, there are options to pursue post-trial appeals through the Superior supreme courts in PA. At Bill Brennan law offices, our team will not stop fighting to protect your rights until you receive the outcome you deserve.
Protection From Abuse Order
An alleged victim may also apply for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in which there are various degrees of restrictions placed on the accused, such as entering the home of the victim or going places where the victim may be – similar to a restraining order. If there is a threat of immediate danger felt by the victim, they could pursue a temporary PFA, which would be granted at a hearing without the defendant present until another hearing with the defendant will occur.
The other option is a PFA with a hearing within 10 days of the filing of a petition in which the accused is welcome to attend and present a defense. If unsuccessful, the judge may grant a final protection from abuse order that could last up to three years.
Why Should You Fight a Domestic Violence Charge?
1. Your Freedom – you may be facing possible jail time if convicted of a felony charge
2. Your Relationships – you may lose the ability to have a relationship with your children, including loss of custody or limited visitation rights
3. Job & Housing Opportunities – many employers and landlords will conduct background checks and deny you the ability to work or live where you want
4. Employment Security – you could lose your existing job if you are in a field that involves the caretaking of others or the possession of firearms
5. Your Second Amendment Rights – likewise, your right to legally purchase firearms or ammunition in PA could be invalidated for life
6. Costs – fines and penalties can be very expensive and if the victim gets a PFA, you may also be responsible for losses they claim occurred from the abuse
If you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence, do not jeopardize your freedom, relationships or reputation by waiting to get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. Our legal team will help you build a strong defense to fight for your rights. Contact us today.Read More
Shoplifting by deception may seem like a minor crime, but in reality, these offenses can lead to significant fines and potential jail time. Around the holidays, shoplifting is more common than any other time of the year as crowded malls and stores become easier targets for shoplifters.
If the holiday season has you tempted to try your luck with “retail theft” or you or a loved one have recently been accused, here are the consequences of shoplifting in Pennsylvania that you should know.
What is Shoplifting or Retail Theft in Pennsylvania?
The state law defines retail theft as taking merchandise that is for sale with the purpose of “depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof.” There are a number of ways in which you could be convicted of shoplifting. These situations include:
- Altering the price tag or label of merchandise to less than full retail value
- Transferring merchandise to a different container in order to pay less than full value
- Under-ringing merchandise at the cash register to deprive your employer (the store owner) of the full retail value
- Destroying or removing any security tag/device with the intent of removing the merchandise from the store without paying full retail value.
Philadelphia Penalties of Shoplifting
Charges for retail theft will depend on the value of the item that has been taken, as well as whether it is your first, second, or third offense.
First Offense for items worth less than $150:
Fines of up to $300. Sentence of up to 90 days in jail.
Second Offense for items worth less than $150:
Fines of up to $5,000. Sentence of up to 2 years in jail.
First or Second Offense for items worth more than $150:
Fines of up to $10,000. Sentence of up to 5 years in jail.
Third or Subsequent Offense for items over $1000 (or regarding a firearm or motor vehicle):
Fines of up to $15,000. Sentence of up to 7 years in jail. Permanent record with potential loss of civil liberties, such as possessing a firearm.
How to Avoid Shoplifting Charges
When you’re charged with shoplifting, it’s easy to become anxious and apprehensive, but don’t let these emotions result in actions you will regret. If you’re ever accused of retail theft, here’s what you should do:
- Stay Put. You may be tempted to flee the scene, but it will only make things worse, resulting in additional charges and fines. It will also make your case harder to defend in court.
- Avoid Talking to the Police. You’ll likely be turned over to law enforcement, but this does not mean you have to provide them answers to all their questions. Your name and contact information will suffice. Anything else could be used against you in court.
- Hire a Shoplifting Defense Attorney. In shoplifting cases, the preparedness and skills of your lawyer make all the difference. Having the best defense on your side is crucial to preventing small mistakes from having big consequences. Before speaking to the police, tell them you want to speak to your lawyer, and contact our offices.
If you or someone you know has been accused of shoplifting, you’ll want the very best criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia investigating your case and developing the right approach to minimize negative impact these charges can have on your life. Contact our highly-qualified attorneys for a free consultation today.Read More
In 2014, Philadelphia joined many other cities in a major step toward criminal justice reform: decriminalizing marijuana. As an offense that once involved 30 days in jail & a $500 fine, the amendment has had a big impact on many Pennsylvania residents, now warranting only a citation and small fine of $25. So can you still get arrested on possession charges? Here’s what you need to know about the effects of marijuana decriminalization in Philadelphia.
The Process of Decriminalization
It’s important to note that “decriminalization” does not mean a crime is now legal. The term instead defines a crime once punishable by incarceration as now a civil offense, punishable by citations, fines, and/or community service.
With a population of over 1.5 million, Philly became the largest city in the country to remove criminal charges for marijuana possession of up to 30 grams. As a result, arrests have dropped and other cities across PA have started to follow our lead. Some of these cities include:
- Allentown: ≤30 grams, $25 fine
- Harrisburg: ≤30 grams, $75 – $150 fine
- Lancaster: ≤1 ounce, $25 – $75 fine
- Pittsburgh: ≤30 grams, $25 fine
- York: ≤30 grams, $100 fine
The New Marijuana Law & Penalties in Philadelphia
In April of 2016, Governor Wolfthe signed into law the use of marijuana for medical purposes as legal. As expected, it took the PA Department of Health between 18-24 months to get the program up and running successfully, and in early 2018, medical marijuana became available at approved dispensaries for certain approved medical conditions, some of which include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Tourette syndrome
For a complete list of approved medical conditions, visit the Commonwealth of PA’s website.
If caught in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana without a medical marijuana ID card, you will now be penalized with a citation and $25 fine, while smoking in public will result in a $100 fine and a citation or 9 hours of community service.
But it’s important to note that the decriminalization only covers so much. For example, if you are in possession of over 30 grams of marijuana, you will face jail time and a fine of $5,000. The sale and distribution of marijuana are still considered a criminal offense despite the reform as well, even if the sale is under 30 grams. And if you are stopped by an officer for smoking in public, and cannot provide any form of identification, the officer is permitted to place you under arrest and confiscate the marijuana in your possession.
How our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance and buying it from an unlawful source remains a stand-alone crime in Pennsylvania. You will be arrested, regardless of the quantity. First-time offenders are still eligible for probation, but courts can actually double the penalties, with the possibility of additionally charging for intent to distribute.
The recent decriminalization law shouldn’t make you careless about marijuana possession and the related consequences. If you or a family member has been charged, make sure you have the knowledge and experience of a top Philadelphia criminal defense attorney advising you throughout the process. Contact us immediately to discuss your case and start gathering evidence in your defense.Read More
Domestic violence in Pennsylvania is unique in that there are no separate charges for these crimes. Instead, based on the acts committed, they are charged as other offenses under state law. So just like with any abuse or sexual assault crime, the penalties can be very severe. This is why knowing what qualifies as domestic violence in Pennsylvania is so important in getting the legal help you need to defend and protect your freedom.
What is Considered a Domestic Relationship in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, domestic violence applies to cases where those involved are “family or household members,” people who have parented a child together, or current/former intimate dating partners. The terms family or household members more specifically constitutes spouses – whether current or divorced/separated – parents and children, brothers and sisters, and others related by blood or “affinity.”
Charges Associated with Domestic Violence
In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is typically associated with the following acts:
- Assault – knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causing bodily harm or attempting to cause bodily harm
- Child Abuse – physical or sexual assault of a child, molestation
- Endangering a Child’s Welfare – violating the duty of protection, care, and support that parents legally owe their children
- Weapon Charges – threat or use of weapons, unlawful possession or use
- False Imprisonment/Kidnapping – interfering with someone’s liberty through physical restraint or threats
- Stalking – engaging in a course of conduct or repeated acts in a way that places another person in reasonable fear of danger
Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges
The consequences associated with domestic violence are very serious. Offenders often face mandatory incarceration, significant fines, probation, or are required to take counseling or anger management courses. While these charges are significant and troublesome enough, the side effects can be even more disruptive. Domestic violence convictions become part of public record, which can lead to long-term consequences in many aspects of your life.
According to HR.com, 96% of employers conduct at least one type of background check on a new hire. If you have a criminal history involving violence, you may be at a significant disadvantage to a candidate who doesn’t. And in some fields, you will be completely ineligible for employment – like healthcare and education.
Landlords want to know that their tenants are trustworthy, respectful, and won’t be a problem. For this reason, many will request a criminal background check prior to renting and may be hesitant to choose someone posing a risk of violence occurring in their property.
- Professional Licensing
For regulated professions in fields such as law, medicine, or education, a background check and explanation of any legal activity in your past will be required. In most cases, domestic violence will make it much more difficult to obtain a professional license.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are facing accusations of domestic violence, a criminal defense attorney with experience in all kinds of domestic abuse cases can help prevent your allegations from becoming a conviction. Most cases involve complicated, personal dynamics between family and household members, which present an opportunity for you to present the best possible argument.
A criminal defense attorney will be by your side during any questioning that law enforcement my conduct to prevent anything you say from being used against you in court. They can also help determine if and when self-defense applies in your situation, which is often a very convoluted question. Your lawyer will also have the skills to negotiate a plea bargain with the most favorable terms while representing you throughout a possibly complicated trial proceeding.
To discuss your specific situation or learn more about domestic violence charges, our criminal defense attorneys have unrivaled experience in domestic violence charges to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us for a free consultation and get the strong defense you deserve.Read More
Going to court can be intimidating. And the idea of facing judges, juries, and prosecutors may tempt you to just not show up altogether. But if you’ve been summoned to court and fail to appear, the case won’t resolve itself and it certainly won’t be forgotten. In fact, it will only make things worse. That’s why we’re here to answer all the questions you have regarding the consequences of not showing up to court.
What Happens If I Don’t Show Up?
When you receive a summons or notice to appear in court as a criminal defendant, it is a court order. Violating a court order is a crime itself under federal law, so failing to appear could result in additional charges.
According to 231 Pa. Code Rule 1910.13-1, “If a party fails to appear at a conference and/or hearing as directed by order of the court, the court may issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the party.”
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest, named aptly due to the fact that it is issued by the judge from “the bench.” It permits that law enforcement can take you into custody at any time. For example, if you fail to follow a simple traffic law like running a stop sign, the officer that pulls you over is entitled to arrest you on the spot. In a more serious case, the judge may request that police go to your home or place of work to hold you in custody until your hearing.
There are two different types of bench warrants that can be issued in Pennsylvania: Normal and Judge-Only.
Normal Bench Warrant: Warrant issued by the judge that is serving bench warrants on that particular day.
Judge-Only Bench Warrant: Warrant that can only be handled by the judge that issued it.
Bench warrants can also be issued for violating your probation or missing a probation interview, so if you’re unsure of whether or not your failure to appear in court resulted in a bench warrant, it’s crucial you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options before your situation gets worse.
What Do I Do if I Have a Bench Warrant?
From a judge’s perspective, a failure to avoid your court hearing doesn’t reflect well on your character or intentions. First, you should contact a criminal lawyer in Philadelphia to help advise you of the best course of action. If you missed your court date for a justifiable reason, such as a medical emergency, you’ll want to gather any documentation you can find to prove you received medical care at the time of your hearing.
In any other case, you’ll likely have to turn yourself into law enforcement. Once you do, the court will arrange a date for your bench warrant hearing. There is a chance you could be held in custody for up to 72 hours while waiting for a hearing, or even longer depending on timing with weekends or federal holidays.
At the hearing, the judge will lift the warrant, but it’s likely you’ll have other penalties issued as well. This may include being held in contempt or facing jail time of up to six months. Other repercussions may include:
- Forfeiting your bond
- Charges for any future crimes you commit will likely worsen
- Without an experienced attorney, anything you say at your bench warrant arrest could exacerbate your original charges
- Jail time, fines and suspension of your driver’s license may also occur
If you’ve been convicted for not appearing in court, our attorneys are skilled and ready to help you explore all the viable options to receive the best possible outcome. Don’t wait another day to schedule your free consultation. Contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers so we can fight for you.Read More
If you’re a suspect in an investigation, there’s a good chance you’ll be contacted by a detective to discuss the allegations against you. Most likely, a lot of questions will start running through the head. Do I have to talk to them? What will they ask me? If I have nothing to hide, I should go in to clear the air, right? It’s not that simple. Willingly talking to a detective gives them the opportunity to use anything you say – and maybe didn’t mean to say – against you. Before you’re questioned by the police, it’s important to be prepared. So, here’s what you need to know.
Know the Situation You’re In
There are actually 3 types of police questioning. Each provide the accused with different rights and obligations from the officers.
- Voluntary Encounters – consensual questioning that can end at any time and don’t permit a search by an officer
- Investigative Detentions – brief 20-minute questionings in which the accused cannot leave immediately and can be frisked by an officer
- Arrests – when arrested, the accused’s rights are very limited; they may be frisked, forced to show ID, or even taken to jail under certain circumstances.
Both investigative detentions and arrests require a certain amount of evidence from the officer, beyond “reasonable suspicion.” In order to arrest or search your you, they must have “probable cause,” but knowing the amount of evidence the officer has against you isn’t always obvious, so it’s important to ask why you are being questioned before anything else.
Remember the Numbers 4, 5 & 6
Law school prepares a defense lawyer to defend against actions. Defending against certain comments that were made during a “friendly chat” with a detective is a lot harder. That’s why when you’re contacted by an officer, it’s crucial to remember you Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights; you’re protected from unreasonable search and seizure, you don’t have to be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment without due process with the right to remain silent, and you have the right to a speedy trial by a jury of your peers.
By saying you want to contact an attorney, you’re not admitting guilt, but simply exercising your rights protected under the Constitution.
There’s No Such Thing as a Casual Chat
Nothing good will come from a friendly conversation with an officer. If you’re called in “just to talk,” it’s more than likely you are a suspect in the crime, and they’re seeking a way to find evidence against you. These investigators and detectives are trained and very skilled in techniques that elicit a confession. They don’t have your best interest in mind and will do and say what they can to get the information they can use against you in court.
You Have to Tell the Truth, But They Don’t
First and foremost, if a detective tells you that by refusing to answer their questions will hurt your case, it’s not true. In fact, police are experts in manipulation and will even lie about having certain evidence against you or an eyewitness in order to scare you into a half-baked confession. Repetitive questions and incriminating statements, even facial expressions and body language, are all persuasion tactics they’ll use to wear you down.
Under that type of pressure, it’s easy to say something you may regret. You’re familiar with the saying, “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law,” and that is one thing an officer will tell you that is absolutely true. So, don’t fall for the other stuff. Ask to speak to your lawyer before anything else, so they can prepare you for the best defense strategy and get you out of the situation sooner.
Reduce Your Risk of Suspicion
There are so many reasons why an accused person would ask to speak to a lawyer. So don’t be afraid of making yourself seem more suspicious by doing so. It’s your best chance at avoiding the worst possible scenario. There are some other questions you can do as well to help reduce your exposure to suspicion while under investigation.
- Ask if you are free to leave
- Ask why they are questioning you
- Be polite and respectful
- Keep your hands in plain sight
That first one is most important. By not asking if you are free to go, police will assume you want to stay and keep the investigation going.
We really can’t stress enough the importance of contacting an experienced defense lawyer before answering any questions under interrogation. An attorney has the knowledge and expertise to get you out of a high-pressure situation and prepare you for what’s to come. Contact our criminal defense attorneys before you talk to the police to get the experience and skills you need to protect your rights and negotiate the best possible outcome for you.Read More
Impaired driving is a serious crime that affects even the most law-abiding citizens who make one bad decision to get behind the wheel. 1 in 3 driving-related deaths involve a driver with a BAC at the legal limit (0.08%) or higher – and what’s even more staggering is that alcohol is involved in 23% of all fatal crashes among 16-20-year-olds, who are under the legal drinking age.
These statistics are a driving force behind why Pennsylvania takes drunk driving very seriously. So if you or someone you know has gotten behind the wheel under the influence and under the drinking age, it’s important to know the consequences that are waiting for you if you get pulled over.
Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania
For all drivers 21 and over, Pennsylvania divides their fines and penalties for a DUI into three categories based on the blood alcohol concentration of the driver at the time of the arrest.
0.08% to 0.099%: General Impairment BAC
0.10% to 0.159%: High BAC
0.16% & over: Highest BAC (or under the influence of a controlled substance)
Whether it is a first, second, or third offense will also play a role in the court’s decision. These consequences can range anywhere from 5 days to 5 years in jail, $300 to $10,000 in fines, 1 to 1 ½ years license suspension, and mandatory drug and alcohol treatment and safety programs. Any driver who refuses to submit to blood alcohol tests are subject to harsher penalties, no matter how many charges they have had in the past.
The Consequences of a DUI for Underage Drivers
For underage drivers, Pennsylvania has a strict DUI conviction for a BAC of as little as 0.02%. Minors who are pulled over or caught driving under the influence risk the following mandatory minimum sentences:
- 48 hours in jail
- A fine of $500
- License suspension of 12 months
- An alcohol safety school & alcohol/drug treatment program determined by the court
- 30 days in jail
- A fine of $750
- License suspension of 12 months
- An alcohol safety school & alcohol/drug treatment program determined by the court
- 90 days in jail
- A fine of $1,500
- License suspension of 18 months
- An alcohol safety school & alcohol/drug treatment program determined by the court
There are also collateral consequences to keep in mind too. For high school or college students, a DUI conviction could result in suspension or expulsion, while jeopardizing scholarships and any character-related programs or achievements. And as a public record, you also face the negative stigma that’s associated with a DUI within your community and with employers; while many insurance companies will also choose to raise rates significantly for convicted drivers.
What Happens After an Underage DUI Arrest?
If you’re pulled over by the police for driving under the influence, the best thing you can do is remain calm and respectful to the law enforcement. You should ask to speak with your attorney immediately as anything you say before this request is part of the investigation and can be used against you in court. And this includes any questions asked by the officer about your sobriety. Being cooperative doesn’t require you to answer any alcohol-related questions after being pulled over. However, if you are showing visible signs of intoxication – bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, etc.- you will likely be arrested on the spot.
For select first-time DUI offenders, there is an opportunity to expunge a DUI conviction from your record under Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. This program may include counseling, probation, safety classes, and community service. Eligibility will be automatically be denied for defendants whose charge includes the resulting injury or death of other drivers.
Having an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney on Your Side
If you’ve been convicted of an underage DUI charge, our attorneys are skilled at the thorough investigation of drunk driving arrests to help you exploit weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and minimize the lifetime consequences at risk. Contact us today so we can fight for you.Read More
Anyone who’s ever seen a crime show or courtroom drama is probably familiar with the phrase “You have the right to remain silent.” After an arrest occurs, it’s the first thing the fictional cop will tell the individual. But what you may not be familiar with is the other rights you have after an arrest. And surprisingly, real law enforcement officers aren’t always compliant with each one. That’s why it’s especially important that you do know all your rights after you’re arrested and have an experienced criminal defense attorney protecting them for you.
Miranda v. Arizona
In 1966’s Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals under arrest for suspicion of committing a crime have certain rights that must be explained to them before any questioning can occur. These “Miranda Rights” are designed to protect your Fifth Amendment Right to be free from self-incrimination and are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent & refuse to answer questions
- Anything you say can be used against you in court
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police & have an attorney present during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you
- If you decide to answer questions without an attorney present, you still have the right to stop answering questions at any time
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Silence cannot be used against you in court. In fact, the smartest thing you can do after an arrest is to not answer any questions until you have an attorney present. Nothing you say during this time is going to get you out of those handcuffs, but it can be used against you in court. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being compelled to give a testimony themselves and applies immediately after the arrest, as well as during court when prosecution calls a defendant to the stand.
But remaining silent still requires you to clearly and explicitly tell the arresting officer that you are utilizing the Fifth Amendment right and do not want to speak to the officer without your attorney present.
You Have the Right to a Lawyer
Thanks to the Sixth Amendment, any individual under criminal prosecution that may impede on their life or liberty is required to be granted the assistance of legal counsel through all phases of the criminal process – including interrogation, trial, sentencing, and initial appeal of any conviction.
Having an attorney present to defend your rights and protect you throughout the process is critical. They’re able to provide services for vital aspects that can dictate the outcome of the case. These include:
- Ensuring your rights are upheld and all law enforcement is in compliance during the initial investigation and court proceedings
- Advising and explaining proceedings
- Negotiating a plea deal
- Providing an aggressive defense through cross-examination of government witnesses, presenting all applicable defenses, and objecting to inappropriate questions or evidence.
If You Cannot Afford A Lawyer, One Will Be Appointed
If a defendant wishes to have a government-provided attorney, they must make the request at their arraignment (or first hearing after the arrest). According to the second half of the Sixth Amendment, any defendant that meets low-income criteria set forth by the state of Pennsylvania, or the state in which the proceedings are occurring, will receive a full-time public defender, or in certain cases, a private criminal defense lawyer.
Due to the number of defendants who require these services, many court-appointment lawyers are limited in their time and resources they can devote to each case. In many circumstances, you may have different lawyers at different aspects of the trial with varying levels of experience depending on the difficulty of that phase.
If You Agree to An Interview, You Are Free To Stop It At Anytime
Even if you’re initially willing to answer an officer’s questions during interrogation without an attorney present, you can still invoke your Miranda Rights at any time after. That means having the ability to refuse to answer any more questions without one. But you must know that any questions you have answered from the time the Miranda Rights were read until you request a lawyer, can be used as evidence against you in court.
If you or someone you know is arrested for a crime, call us before you do anything else. The best way to protect your rights and minimize anything that could be held against you in court is by having an experienced defense attorney helping advise and protect you throughout the process. Contact our criminal lawyers in Philadelphia today for a consultation.Read More
Penalties for drug possession in Pennsylvania are some of the toughest in the country. Despite more and more states decriminalizing certain drug offenses, a conviction for possession or intent to distribute in cities across our state offer severe consequences. While these charges vary on the type of drug and the circumstances of the possession, it’s important to consult an experienced drug charge defense lawyer to help you understand what’s at risk based on what types of drug charges are the most severe in Pennsylvania.
Common Drug Charges in Pennsylvania
While there are a number of different drug offenses within PA, the most common involve heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The primary concern for law enforcement is stopping the trafficking of these substances, but charges for possession even without intent aren’t taken lightly either.
Since these drugs are all very different in their purpose and effects, they are penalized in different ways. Pennsylvania and federal law divide controlled substances into “schedules,” based on their potential for abuse and therapeutic value. Below are a few examples:
- Schedule 1:
Drugs that have a very high potential for addiction and abuse with no medical purposes. (Over 100 drugs are on the official list)
- Schedule 2:
Drugs that may create “severe psychological or physical dependence,” but unlike Schedule 1, contain substances prescribed for medical use.
- Schedule 3:
Drugs that may result in physical dependence or psychological dependence, but in general, have less potential for abuse than Schedule 1 & 2 and are often prescribed medically.
Codeine & Hydrocodone products mixed with aspirin or Tylenol
- Schedule 4:
Drugs that offer very limited possibility of becoming physically or psychologically dependent and are often prescribed medically.
-Clonzaepam (Klonpin, Valpax, etc.)
- Schedule 5:
Drugs that have very little risk of addiction and are prescribed medications. These drugs may sometimes be higher scheduled drugs in lower amounts.
-Cough medicines (with codeine)
-Zolpidem (Ambien, Stillnox, Zolpimist)
Pennsylvania Drug Charges & Penalties
Pennsylvania drug penalties are fairly straightforward: there are two basic misdemeanors – carrying up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000 – and three felonies – Felony Possession with Intent (Drug Trafficking), Felony Possession with Intent To Deliver (PWID), and Unlawful Manufacturing. Depending on the Schedule in which the drug falls under, these charges can result in up to 15 years imprisonment and fines of up to $250,000 per count.
Marijuana is still illegal in PA, so intentionally or knowingly having it within your possession can result in serious charges. These penalties will depend on the amount you are caught with at the time of your arrest, as well as whether or not you have been convicted in the past. For example, 30 grams or more could result in a maximum of one year sentence and $5,000 in fees, while the same amount as a third offense ups the potential jail time to 3 years.
Weight is used to determine the severity of a drug charge involving cocaine. For example, less than 2 grams could result in one-year jail sentence and $5,000 in fines, while 2 to 10 grams of cocaine could receive a minimum 2-year sentence. You’ll also lose your driver’s license for 6 months to 2 years, depending on how many offenses are on your record.
It’s important to note that federal offenses for possession and trafficking may be much more severe depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
Heroin is considered the most dangerous of the Schedule 1 drugs listed above, and so is charged as such. In Pennsylvania, possession of 1 to 5 grams is a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence, largely due to the fact that there is no accepted medical use for heroin in PA.
There may also be programs you could be required to attend which provide rehabilitation to first-time offenders in an attempt to prevent a future offense.
IF you or someone you know if facing a serious drug offense, our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys are here to help. With experience in all types of drug charges over the last 25 years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we’ll fight aggressively to minimize your penalties and protect your freedoms. Contact us today for a free consultation.Read More